See below links to all of my miscellaneous book write-ups for Culturess.
There’s something in the air, and I’m not talking about the coronavirus. If you’re reading this, I imagine, like me, you have been bombarded with nonstop news and chatter about the pandemic. It is unprecedented, scary stuff.
I’m not normally too neurotic or anxious of a person. I can usually talk myself down from a ledge if I do start to get worked up and pretty easily switch my train of thought (or distract myself with something else).
But for the last two weeks, that hasn’t been the case. I am not necessarily afraid of getting sick. (As far as the virus goes, I am more concerned about the folks I know who are in the at-risk group, like my dad who turned 69 yesterday, or the many immunocompromised people I know.)
It’s more the constant uncertainty that is drumming up so much anxiety. How long will this last? Will my income (or my loved ones’) be stable? What will the world look like when this is all over?
It doesn’t make it easier that I live alone (aside from my two Pomeranians, of course, but they don’t seem to get the whole social distancing thing). It’s hard to hash out the absolute insanity that’s going on when you don’t have someone to talk to right next to you.
Normally, I would do this at work, or when visiting family and friends on the weekend, but that’s gone. I am introverted, and when this first started, I thought this whole staying at home alone for weeks on end sounded pretty great. But no one is this introverted.
It’s weird that my dad, brother, and sister-in-law are here in town, but we can’t see each other. I try to see my sister’s family as much as possible; I hate that I have no idea when I’ll see my niece and nephew again.
I’ve lived in Tahlequah my whole life, a tight-knit town of 16,000. I know somehow we’ll come out on the other side of this, but that doesn’t make the present any less scary. It doesn’t make it any easier to watch your dearest friends and family prepare for the worst-case scenario. It definitely doesn’t make it any less eerie to see my home turn into a ghost town.
That said, I was raised by one of the most optimistic women who’s ever lived, so I’m trying to look at this from as many positive angles as possible. (I can’t help but think that Mom and I would have had a lot of fun in quarantine, as weird as that may be to say.)
Lots of families have been afforded time together that they wouldn’t otherwise have outside of a vacation. Community leaders are working on tangible solutions every minute of every day and the fog is starting to clear a bit.
Like many of you, I’m sure, I’m getting back around to some long-neglected to-do list items around the house and am finally, after nearly three years, setting up a home office for myself, which is actually very exciting.
Thankfully, we also have pop culture and the Internet. I’ve been hosting movie nights on Twitter as a fun way to interact with friends and also distract from *gestures wildly* everything. And other folks are finding all kinds of ways to connect in chaos, like Facebook and Instagram Live or virtual cocktail parties.
Nothing about this is normal. But if we’re all respectful and just a little bit germophobic, hopefully, there will be a light at the end of the tunnel.
A few weeks ago, when talks of a teacher walkout in Oklahoma were just a rumor, a friend on Facebook asked his followers to share the name and memory of a teacher who’d made a difference. (The post ended up going viral.) Like many of us, there’s no way I could pick just one teacher.
My second grade teacher, Mrs. Morrison. When I got braces with glow in the dark bands, she let me lead the class to the teachers lounge so I could climb up on a desk, smile at the fluorescent light in the ceiling, and see them glow. (They were a letdown.) In a fun twist of fate, I recently got to award her a certificate in honor of her fiftieth year since graduating college this past Homecoming. I asked if she remembered me. She said, “Oh yes. You were a fun one.” I hoped that was a good thing.
My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Purkey, who had to reteach us third grade math, but let us watch The Goonies in class one day and was consequently horrified. (She did not remember the language when she’d last watched it in the ’80s.) I still know how to count back change because of her.
My fifth grade teachers, Mrs. Underwood and Mrs. Pate. I used to go back and visit them every year for a while because they were just simply the best.
My sixth grade teacher, Mrs. Bridges. The amount of reading we did in her class was amazing. She gently harassed me about taking too long to read The Lord of the Rings, but she still let me try. (We were supposed to read a book a week, I think, and of, course, it took me two, or three, to read just one of those.) She had an amazing audiobook collection to facilitate reading. Of course, anyone who knew my mom knew she was addicted to audiobooks. Mrs. Bridges gladly let us borrow from her classroom library.
My seventh and eighth grade algebra teacher, Mrs. Hamm. She let me and my friends have a second home in her classroom. I got to be a teacher’s aide for her one semester and felt like I was really responsible, but really I spent most of the time reading Harry Potter fanfiction. She still tutored me long after I left her class. She was even responsible for helping me find Lois Lane and cultivating my pomeranian addiction!
My sophomore English teacher, Mrs. Meigs. I think I probably drove her a little crazy with my pedantry and sometimes antagonistic questions. By the time I had her, I was ready to prove everyone wrong. However, she never ceased to find new ways to keep me challenged and encourage me. I’ll never forget a comment of hers stating, “You should be a journalist!” on some assignment we had. I kept it on my wall for years.
My junior physics and calculus teachers, Mr. Brown and Mrs. McMillen. OSSM was the most challenging year of high school and easily the thing that prepared me the most for college, even though I didn’t end up doing anything math or science related. I was not good at it. At all. The first week of class when they gave out their cellphone numbers in case we needed help with homework, I thought they were crazy. And then I called. Mr. Brown and Mrs. McMillen never made me feel bad, they never stopped encouraging me, or helping me. Mr. Brown tutored me long after I left his classroom (see a pattern?) and I’ve enjoyed keeping up with both of them through the years.
My high school computer teacher, Mrs. McClain, got to school early just to let my friends and I in to her classroom so we could mess around with photoshop or other stuff on the computers. She gave us room to learn and play around and explore. Crazily enough, almost 10 years later, with no training in college, I still use all of my knowledge I learned from her in my current job!
Last, but certainly not least, my music and theatre teachers: Miss Holly, Mrs. Green, and Mr. Peters. Like so many others, Choir and drama were my havens in junior high and high school. I would have lived in the PAC if I could have. Art gave me and my friends the freedom to be silly and awkward and goofy all while still learning to be who we were and who we wanted to be without judgment.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention my best friend, Thomas, who is striking at the Capitol this week. No, I didn’t have him as a “teacher” but he certainly likes to school us all.
And because I work for a university, faculty are on my mind as well, since higher ed in Oklahoma has also seen incredibly steep cuts with no means of replacing funds. Dr. Mintler, Amy, and Renée were all instrumental in my early college experience. (I still pester them a lot today.) I owe a lot to the entire communication department at NSU, including my sister, who teaches me informally every day. And my time in the van with Kris and the speech and debate team was a formative part of my college experience I’ll never forget.
When choosing a memory to share, it inherently asks you to leave others out, and I know there are people I will miss or forget. (As long a post as this already is, I am trying to keep it brief.) But perhaps the most vibrant picture of what teachers have done in my life was when my own mother died. At the time, she was a teacher herself. She had recently re-entered the classroom, teaching high school English, and loved it, though she dealt with many of the issues you’ll hear other Oklahoma teachers discuss. At her memorial service, when we greeted everyone, I remember being shocked at who all took time out of their days to come. Her fellow teachers, some of whom I didn’t know, but many of whom were my former teachers. Miss Holly made a point to find me and hug me before the service. Mr. Peters gave me a big bearhug in the line. Mrs. McMillen, who know longer works in town, drove all the way in just for my mom’s memorial. Professors my sister taught with and my mom knew.
Teaching isn’t just a job; it’s a calling that goes beyond a day or a year. Teachers impact students for their entire lives. Our teachers deserve to be paid what they’re worth and our students deserve the peace of mind to know that their future in the classroom is secure.
I should start off by saying I am not a political scientist or commentator or expert. I study and write about media and rhetoric will get back to that soon. But I also study gender, race, and culture and, thus, like most people, have been consumed by this election. In short, I have a lot of thoughts.
There have already been many articles written about what to do after the election, but they have been targeted at a narrow audience. Regardless of partisan affiliation, Americans need to come together now. It may sound clichéd, but it’s true. We are already more ideologically divided than ever before. Now, Americans have elected a man who more often than not uses divisive rhetoric rather than unific, empowering segments of the population who already have power while further disaffecting the marginalized.
No one wants to be made to feel they are complicit in someone else’s pain. While many, many Trump voters are not explicitly and overtly sexist, racist, xenophobic, or homophobic, they voted for a man who is. White people overwhelmingly voted for Donald Trump. These votes are emblematic of a white supremacist system that privileges some lives over others. (I highly recommend you read this for a primer on whiteness.) It is time for white people to recognize what they have done. White liberals also need to reckon with this.
Below, I have listed some things that everyone can do following the election of Donald J. Trump as President of the United States. Unless we want the divide between Americans to grow further, it is time for all of us to talk and listen to each other, and treat each other as human beings.
If you voted for/supported Trump:
If you voted for/supported Clinton:
If you voted for/supported Third Party candidates:
If you didn’t vote/don’t care:
Have I missed anything? Let me know in the comments.
Women make up 51% of the population but hold less than 20% of U.S. Congressional seats. It wasn’t until 1920 that white women earned the right to vote. It wasn’t until 1972 that women could get birth control without written consent from their husbands. It wasn’t until 2015 that all military combat roles were open to women. Women still earn less than men. Thus, for women, the political has always been deeply personal. Deny it as much as you want, but sex and gender matter, just like race, ethnicity, nationality, class, sexual orientation, and religion. During a historic presidential campaign with the first female presidential nominee from a major party and the most openly misogynistic and sexist presidential candidate ever, being a woman has once again become a political act.
This election has been weird to say the least. On one hand, it has been gratifying and vindicating to watch Hillary Clinton break through barriers despite unprecedented sexism and misogyny. (If you say her gender doesn’t matter, you’re wrong.) It is truly strange to see someone you can relate to in such a public platform. The fact that “mansplaining” and “manterruption” have become slang words people used to discuss the first presidential debate points to something nearly every woman is familiar with–the feeling of being shouted over, condescended to, and having to simply smile and wait your turn. Rarely is there a national conversation about this feeling, however.
Another common criticism of Hillary Clinton is her seemingly cold, robotic, calculated demeanor. If she doesn’t smile, it’s because she’s hateful. If she does, it’s smug. I realized after reading the reactions to the first debate that I have experienced this exact same double bind in my own life. I don’t know if I can say that I’ve truly related so much to someone in this type of position before. Many women are undoubtedly also experiencing this, and thus, having their feelings validated.
This is why representation matters. If you can’t see someone who looks like you in a role, you can’t imagine yourself doing it. I never thought a woman president would ever be possible until this year. I imagine it’s how many Black Americans felt during similar moments when President Obama ran in 2008 and 2012.
Then there’s the unrelenting storm of misogyny and sexism from Donald Trump. From the moment he announced his intention to run over a year ago, my position has been to ignore him as much as possible and thus deny him legitimacy. The xenophobia, racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia, and pure hatred from him aside, he lacks the basic knowledge of how our Constitution works. The fact that he can even be considered a viable candidate for our highest office is proof positive of White Straight Male Privilege.
Despite my attempts to ignore him, though, his words hurt me and millions of other Americans. Even when they are not directed at me (a woman), his beliefs on Muslims and Mexicans pain me. They make me ache for my friends and neighbors who must be living in fear from the violent rhetoric of this campaign. His words hurt because America was not founded on the belief of isolating a single group of people and banning them. The times we have done this have been the darkest in our history.
Trump’s comments about women really hit home for me, though. This latest news did not surprise me. The man we have come to know has never spoken about women in terms of anything but their sexual value. He famously speaks about his own daughters as though they are sexual conquests.
Nonetheless, this latest news was the tipping point for me. Reading the transcript of his words literally turned my stomach. I am not a survivor of sexual assault, but I am a staunch advocate for those who are. I spent three years of my undergraduate career working with my college and hometown community fighting against rape culture, the dehumanizing idea that women who are survivors of sexual assault and violence ask for it in anyway shape or form; the idea that women are nothing more than sexual objects made to please men. When someone with as much power and privilege as Donald Trump continually talks about women the way he does–what more proof do you need that rape culture is real, that misogyny is real, that sexism is real?
1 in 4 college women will be raped. I shouldn’t feel lucky that I escaped college without being a statistic. That is sick and wrong. I refuse to let our country’s values be synonymous with the worldview that women are less than human. We make up more than half of this country. It is time for us to stop being viewed as a minority. To casually speak about grabbing a woman’s vagina is an implicit endorsement of sexual assault and violence. 1 in 5 women have been raped. Too many women have experienced this exact action.
In short, this campaign has reminded me daily that I am inferior because of the parts I was born with. One of the most powerful and influential people in the country sees me for nothing less than my sexual capabilities. It adds up. It is tiring and wearing. Again, Trump has spoken about virtually every group of people in a disparaging manner, so I doubt I am alone. But I can only speak to my experience.
I write this not to tell you who to vote for. I, of course, have my opinions on this which are probably not hard to guess. I write this to implore you to continue to engage in a civil discourse and reevaluate the way you talk about yourself and your neighbors. I write this because empathy is deeply important and I fear it is quickly fading from our day-to-day interactions with each other. You don’t have to agree with, condone, or even understand another person to empathize and see them as fully human and treat them with respect.
Americans are more ideologically divided than ever before. I have seen too many people proudly unfriending each other and blocking individuals on Facebook and Twitter over who they are voting for in 30 days. This does not help. If we ever want our country to close this divide, we have to bridge that gap, value others’ viewpoints, and continue the conversation, not only with each other, but with ourselves.
In closing, a reminder of what makes America great:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
I realize I’m a little late, but this has been a tough one.
One of my favorite movies growing up, and my earliest memory of Joan Rivers, was Spaceballs. In it, Rivers played a C-3PO Android Jewess named Dot Matrix with a Joan Rivers-esque wig of the times and some of the best lines of the movie. Rivers’ own wit was injected into the character:
Can we talk? OK, we all know Prince Valium is a pill. But you could have married him for your father’s sake and had a headache for the next 25 years.
Of course, while she was trained in the famed Actors’ Studio, Joan Rivers was known more for her stand-up career and later her interviews on the red carpet.
Since her death, Joan has been lauded for what she did for women in comedy. And it’s true. Without a Joan Rivers, there likely would be no Kathy Griffin or Sarah Silverman or perhaps even Lena Dunham today. Joan paved the way for all free-thinking women to get their say in the din of white male sameness.
I know people are like, ‘Joan Rivers broke down all these barriers for women, blah blah blah,’…I think it’s a disservice to even group her in any — Joan Rivers is one of the greatest stand-up comedians to ever live. She’s better than [Don] Rickles. She’s one of the best female stand-ups to ever live. No man ever said, ‘Yeah, I want to go on after Joan.’ No, Joan Rivers closed the show every night.
People have said Joan was shocking for her time, and she was, having joked about sex, marriage, and abortions in ways that weren’t done until Phyllis Diller before her. But she was shocking everyone right up to the day she died, which was why she was so important. Joan Rivers’s humor and voice was the kind that could be at once outrageously horrifying and yet make you think about things on a systemic level.
In short, Joan was Joan to the end:
When I heard she did a one-hour set the night before she died, I cried. I can’t help but feel she was taken from us too soon.
It used to be a dream of mine to be one of Joan’s writers. I quickly realized this was unrealistic and modified my hopes to seeing her live and meeting her one day. I never will, but Joan’s comedy lives on forever. You can YouTube her original days on The Ed Sullivan Show and The Tonight Show. I recommend you watch the documentary A Piece of Work on Netflix. For any comics or comedy nerds, you’ll be blown away. Netflix also has one of her stand-up specials. I daresay Joan lives on in Chris Rock and even Louis C.K. as well, and all of the comics who’ve taken a page out of her book. And, of course, Joan lives on in her daughter and grandson.
I didn’t know Joan, but I think she would love being the center of attention and beating out Royal Baby #2 on magazine covers.
I have to confess something right up front: I was not a huge fan of Robin Williams. At least, not in recent history. The past few years, he had become more of a cliché to me than a comic. I don’t think I am alone in this opinion.
The past eight weeks I have been taking a stand-up comedy class at the Comedy Parlor in Tulsa. This Sunday, the night before Robin’s death, was the last class and my third time on stage. I plan to write another post about the experience as a whole, but over the last two months, I’ve slowly ingratiated myself in the world of Tulsa comedy, though I don’t know the half of it yet.
I didn’t really process Robin Williams’s death until I got on Twitter that night and saw the dozens of comedians I follow grieving.
As I read through posts, I kind of remembered who Robin Williams was. That my first memory of him was actually watching Mork and Mindy as a kid on Nick-at-Nite. That I used to watch Hook all the time with my sister. That I’ve seen Aladdin hundreds of times and Genie was my favorite character. That I can still remember the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire when his boobs catch on fire and laugh to myself. That he was such a part of the cultural lexicon when I was growing up the comics I admired as a kid did amazing impressions of him that I tried and failed to live up to.
What I’m saying has already been said by other people in far more eloquent ways. Paul F. Tompkins wrote a wonderfully concise tribute. Conan broke the news during the taping of his show on Monday then paid a beautiful tribute to him on Tuesday. Others focused using his death as a way to highlight the importance of treating depression and reaching out to the mentally ill.
Monday night, there were tribute shows at the Laugh Factory and Comedy Store among other places. I had been asked to do a room in Tulsa on Tuesday. After his death, it was planned to be turned into a tribute show until a comic decided that it was “too soon.”
However, Tuesday night, I found that many of the comics were simply lost. They didn’t know how to cope except to stand up and talk about Robin and his impact on them, what a loss it was. A few had had the opportunity to see him live and re-told his jokes with reverence. Some were so distraught they meandered about the depression they suffered from and how they understood him.
I think that’s why Robin Williams’s death has effected everyone so much, but the comedy world in particular. Comedians are predisposed to depression. In order to be a comic, you generally have to observe the world and comment on it in a unique way or have gone through some stuff. And the world is not a pretty place all the time. Telling jokes and making people laugh is also a heck of a way to make yourself feel better when your day isn’t so great.
In short, I haven’t been a comic for long and I did not know Robin Williams or his darkness. But I know the people upon whom his death has made an indelible mark forever. And as a new member of the comedy world, I’ve seen his death from two sides in a way.
Robin, we’ll miss you.
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Mass Communication Theory: from Theory to Practical Application
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Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller
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